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Can You Claim Someone In Prison on Your Taxes?

Can You Claim Someone In Prison on Your Taxes?

When I was in prison, I was lucky to have family and friends who sent me money on a regular basis. If you are sending money to an inmate, know that you are loved and appreciated. Having someone spend money on your book is a big deal.

The inmates are responsible for buying hygiene products themselves. If they want to communicate with outsiders, they have to buy phone time, pens and paper, envelopes and stamps.

If prisoners need additional clothing or shoes, they must purchase these as well. To pass the time, they can also purchase electronic gadgets such as televisions or CD players. Prison commissaries also sell food, drink and over-the-counter medicines, so it’s definitely a blessing when someone outside sends you money.

If your loved one is only in jail for a few months, you may also have car payments and auto insurance on them. Or maybe you paid their attorney fees?

If you regularly send inmates large sums of money and pay their bills, you have to be able to report them on their taxes, right? After all, you are supporting them and their income depends on you. Today, I’m going to answer the question: Can you ask someone to go to jail for your taxes?

In this blog post, I’ll cover:

  • Are prisoners considered dependents?
  • Can you call a minor offender a dependent?

Are prisoners considered dependents?

Unfortunately, prisoners are not considered dependents even if they are your son or daughter so you cannot ask them to pay taxes. Any money you send to a prisoner is considered a gift, so it’s not even tax-deductible.

Those incarcerated are considered the wards of the state and they are supported by the agency. The agency provides room, board and medical care, so even if you pay their bills outside, any money you send will not satisfy the 50% support requirement to consider them a dependent.

Can you call a minor offender a dependent?

If you have children under the age of 18 who are in juvenile detention or prison, you cannot have them as dependents if they are serving a long sentence. However, if their prison term is less than six months and they have lived with you for more than half a year, your child may be considered a dependent under the qualifying child rules.

Eligible Children Rules:

  • You must be able to prove that your child has lived with you for more than six months
  • You must also be able to demonstrate that your child does not contribute more than half of the living expenses

Neither the tax code nor the IRS directive refers to incarcerated dependents, so these qualifying children rules come from a 2002 tax court case and the more recent updated definition of “dependant” in the tax code.

Caring for a loved one behind bars can be expensive, but the federal government views your contribution as a gift, not financial support. However, even if they do consider it support, it’s still not enough to compete with room and board and medical costs. So, you can’t prove that you provide more than 50% of their financial support.

Please don’t let this information stop you from sending money to your incarcerated loved ones. Money is always needed, thank you very much.

Do you send money to prisoners on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments below.


Can you claim a prison inmate as a dependent?

Tax Deduction for Sending Money to a Child in Prison